Louisiana News

Quick hits: Louisiana news briefs for Thursday, April 9

Louisiana legislator dies after contracting COVID-19
Rep. Reggie Bagala, a Louisiana state lawmaker who represented parts of Jefferson and Lafourche parishes, has died after being ill with COVID-19, a longtime friend says.
Marty Chabert, a former state lawmaker who chairs the Louisiana Board of Regents, has been posting social media updates about Bagala’s condition. On Thursday, he said Bagala had died, citing Bagala’s son.
Bagala, 54, was elected to office last year.
At least one other state legislator, Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge, has contracted the illness caused by the new coronavirus. James suffered serious complications but reportedly his condition has improved.
Nonprofits call for unemployment benefit tweaks to mitigate pandemic’s economic damage
Louisiana could tweak its unemployment insurance system to better help residents suffering during the pandemic emergency, a coalition of nonprofit groups argue in a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Their recommendations include waiving the $1,200 minimum base earnings to qualify for benefits. They say the rule penalizes people who have employment lapses, while waiving it would “ensure all working Louisianans can qualify.”
They also recommend waiving the current benefit formula, which produces an average benefit of $220 a week, in favor of a flat rate of $370 a week in line with the national average. And they want the state to implement work sharing, which allows one full-time job to be divided between two people as an alternative to layoffs.
“By providing relief to unemployed workers who need it most, thereby allowing them to stay home, the federal unemployment assistance will improve public health while helping the economy stay afloat during this crisis,” the letter reads in part.
Survey: One-third of state’s child care centers could close permanently
A survey conducted in March found that 20 percent of Louisiana’s child care centers had closed amid the COVID-19 economic slowdown while 15 percent expected to do so, the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children reports. The institute says information collected by the state’s education department after the survey period found that 60 percent of such centers had closed.
About a third of centers, serving about 12,500 children and employing more than 2,000 staff members, say an “extended closure” would lead to shutting their doors permanently, the report says.
Though child care centers are allowed to stay open during the pandemic, parents who are able to care for their children at home are encouraged to do so. More than three-quarters of child care providers reported losing revenue, with collective losses totaling almost $1.7 million as of March 23.
“Given the importance of reliable, quality child care to Louisiana working parents and the state economy, any post-COVID-19 economic recovery effort should take the condition of the child care industry itself into account,” the report says.
U.S. Sen. Cassidy calls for withdrawing American troops from Saudi Arabia
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican who chairs the Senate Energy Subcommittee, intends to introduce legislation that would impose tariffs on oil imports from Saudi Arabia and withdraw American troops from the country.
“Our nation’s economy, national security and the economic welfare of families across Louisiana is threatened by oil being dumped on the world market at below-production costs,” Cassidy said. “Tariffs will restore fair pricing. Withdrawing troops placed to protect others recognizes that friendship and support is a two-way street.”
The bill would call for American troops leaving Saudi Arabia by 30 days after enactment, which reportedly would be a month faster than called for by similar legislation introduced last month.
On Thursday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by Saudi Arabia, reportedly reached a deal with Russia to temporarily cut output.
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